The Alaska Supreme Court on Wednesday reversed a lower court, and reinstated Dean Westlake as the winner of a disputed House election. “I’ve been dancing in my office for the last hour,” said Westlake’s attorney, Thomas Amodio. “They got it right. Four of them got it right, anyway, but that’s all that matters.” The court issued its two-page decision within five hours of hearing oral arguments in the case, with one judge partially dissenting. The high court had hoped to reach a quick decision so ballots could be shipped to villages in the Montana-sized House District 40 beginning Monday.
Westlake had won the Democratic primary by eight votes, but the incumbent, Rep. Benjamin Nageak of Barrow, challenged. He had claimed errors by election workers in Shungnak and other places cost him the election.
Fifty voters in that village were given both Republican ballots and a ballot for all other parties, including Democrats.
The state had argued that while there were errors, they did not rise to the level of malconduct, which is the threshold in state law to overturn the election. The state had argued that the Democrats have an open primary, meaning anyone can vote regardless of party. Since there was no Republican in the race, no one who received the two ballots voted improperly because they were entitled to vote in the race.